July 22, 2024
Forensic Supernatural

Spontaneous human combustion – Wick Effect

  • April 1, 2015
  • 2 min read
Spontaneous human combustion – Wick Effect

Burnt to death but the incident is neither explainable as suicide, homicide or an accident – Have you ever come across something like this? Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) may somewhat explain it but adds more to the confusion as the intriguing phenomenon itself is not completely understood and many also support the claim against it’s in-existence. I first heard about the phenomenon in one of the forensic lectures whereby the body
takes fire without an external heat source with non-living objects in nearby surrounding left behind relatively unharmed.

Few cases:

spontaneous human combustion

In 2011, spontaneous human combustion was declared the official cause of death for an Irish man in a controversial decision by the local courts.

7 cases of unexplained fire has been listed here

Possible explanation: The Wick Effect

Wick Effect: Person’s clothes act as a “wick” and that body fat can act as a long-burning fuel source that would eventually reduce a body to ash. A candle is composed of a wick on the inside surrounded by a wax made of flammable fatty acids. The wax ignites the wick and keeps it burning. In the human body, the body fat acts as the flammable substance, and the victim’s clothing or hair acts as the wick. As the fat melts from the heat, it soaks into the clothing and acts as a wax-like substance to keep the wick burning slowly. This explains the escape of nearby inanimate objects from the fire.

About Author

Sulabh Shrestha

Intern doctor and Medical Blogger Sulabh Shrestha